By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOTPrivate and public sectors are working together to enhance security and safety of transportation of chemicals, both through new procedures and the development of next-generation rail tank cars.
The multibillion-dollar process is being propelled by mandates enacted following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and is further evolving this year as existing mandates are being fulfilled and Congress considers additional legislation.
Key elements include rail routings that limit the transit of chemical-carrying rail cars through high-threat areas, reductions in the amount of time such tank cars are at rest and protocols for the “positive handoff” of these rail cars when they enter and leave chemical facilities.
Currently, the US House of Representatives is considering the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008 (H.R. 5577), approved March 6 by the House Homeland Security Committee. That act would amend and extend Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, or CFATS, that are due for sunset in October 2009.
“The chemical security bill passed by the House Committee on Homeland Security is an important first step toward establishing a permanent federal regulatory framework for chemical security,” said Jack N. Gerard, president and chief executive officer of the American Chemistry Council, which represents the bulk of North American chemical producers, comprising more than 2,000 US facilities.
According to US Department of Homeland Security estimates, investments totaling more than $8 billion will be needed over an eight-year period to put human, physical and cyber security resources in place to meet CFATS mandates created last year by DHS.
Scott Jensen, director of communications of the American Chemistry Council, said that, without a final rule in place, it is too soon to tell exactly how much money will be required to meet transportation-specific requirements. But he said he expects it to be “along the same lines” as the $5 billion he said council member firms have already invested since 2001 in securing of facilities in meeting requirement of the council’s own Responsible Care Security Code.
The mandates are not without controversy.
While commending the House Homeland Security Committee for its latest action, Gerard warned, “Our primary concern, however, is that certain provisions in the bill will divert the focus away from security and, instead, place DHS in the position of mandating changes to chemical processes and products… These complex decisions should be kept in the hands of industry experts who must consider a host of factors, not just security, when evaluating such changes, to avoid unintended consequences.”
Clyde D. Miller, director of corporate security for BASF Corp., voiced numerous concerns in testimony Dec. 12 before the committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection. BASF Corp., which operates facilities in more than half the 50 states, is the North American affiliate of Germany-based BASF AG, the world’s leading chemical company.
Miller asked that the current program should be “given a chance to work” before significant changes are considered. For example, he said, to help implement the existing CFATS, Congress must provide DHS sufficient staffing resources – far more than the 30-person inspection staff now assigned to oversee regulated facilities that, according to DHS’ own estimates, number more than 5,000.
He also cited concerns related to unworkable information protection demands, lack of coordination by DHS in its efforts and potential duplication or conflict of regulations, including for waterside facilities regulated by the US Coast Guard under the Maritime Transportation Security Act.
US Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, in introducing the 2008 legislation on March 11, said he believes the bill bodes to ext